The success of vaccine rollouts in the US and other energy hungry economies will have considerable implications for energy demand in 2021. The Trump Administration dropped the ball on the vaccine roll-out, and distribution now becomes the first crucial test of the Joe Biden presidency. Unfortunately, current vaccination trends suggest a bleak recovery.
While largely forgotten in today’s news cycle of the attack on the Capitol and the impeachment, last Tuesday’s Democrat victories in Georgia secured the first Democratic Party trifecta — control over the presidency, the House, and the Senate — since the 2010 midterms, enabling President-elect Biden’s ability to enact his climate agenda. The news is welcome to activists, but those hoping for a Green New Deal are likely to be disappointed by the 117th Congress – and the Biden Administration.
Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates is financially backing the development of sun-dimming technology that would potentially reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere, triggering a global cooling effect. The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), launched by Harvard University scientists, aims to examine this solution by spraying non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dust into the atmosphere — a sun-reflecting aerosol that may offset the effects of global warming.
The Biden Administration – due to take office January 20th, 2021 – is expected to turn political rhetoric into political action when it comes to the nation’s resource use and energy management. Central to this will be decarbonizing the US electricity sector through renewable power sources as part of the much-touted green energy transition.
Central Asia’s economies have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with demand for the region’s prolific oil and gas supplies down substantially over the course of 2020. Relative to last year, global oil demand is expected to contract by 9 million barrels (about 10 percent) and crude prices remain at an anemic $48/bbl. International natural gas prices are at multiyear lows. This is bad news for gas giant Turkmenistan, hydrocarbon rich Uzbekistan, and OPEC+ member Kazakhstan, which all rely on oil and gas revenues to fill government coffers.
In September, British oil conglomerate BP made a stunning prediction: the use of oil as a fuel in transport may peak in the mid-to-late 2020s. This means that we are either fast approaching peak oil demand — the zenith of oil consumption growth — or we are already there.
By most accounts, OPEC, the global oil exporting cartel and their allies led by Russia — known as OPEC Plus — should be wary of the incoming U.S. administration’s rhetoric. President-elect Biden campaigned on an historically pro-environment agenda: He intends to rejoin the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on climate change, achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, and invest trillions into a ‘clean energy revolution’ that will transition America towards green electrification. This adds yet more obstacles for an organization that once viewed the United States — the world’s number one crude consumer — as its prized export market.
As the world is anticipating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, energy consumption in industry and services is likely to grow. In the longer term, the developing world will increase its energy utilization, leading to growth of global primary energy demand by of 0.4% - 0.6% per year, or a 25% increase by 2050. According to scenarios calculated by energy giant Total SE, massive electrification of transportation will lead to decarbonization, and will require a rapid growth in renewables as a source of electricity.
On November 15th the world’s largest trade agreement was signed in a virtual meeting room, bringing an end to eight years of negotiations. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) links 15 Asia-Pacific economies, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. This is a historic step – and a major trade blow to the United States.
With Joe Biden’s presidential election victory last week, climate change is set to be a top priority for the incoming administration, second only to the Covid-19 recovery. As discussed in my recent article, the president-elect has laid out an ambitious roadmap for decarbonizing the US economy, which includes a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions for the country by 2050. This will require unprecedented investments in green energy technologies: from traditional solar, wind, and storage to frontier tech like hydrogen fuel cells and small modular reactors (SMRs).
Days after Joe Biden’s contentious presidential win, the U.S. Federal Reserve – known as one of America’s most conservative institutions – acknowledged for the first time the financial risks of climate change in its biannual financial stability report. In comments attached to the publication, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said the following:
“Acute hazards, such as storms, floods, or wildfires, may cause investors to update their perceptions of the value of real or financial assets suddenly…slow increases in mean temperatures or sea levels, or a gradual change in investor sentiment about those risks, introduce the possibility of abrupt tipping points or significant swings in sentiment.”
The historic win of the Presidency by Joe Biden will massively change U.S. policies, foreign and domestic. It is too early to project the scope of that transformation. Without a doubt, Biden’s energy policy will differ from that of his predecessor.
The U.S. Department of Energy just awarded $1.35 billion to the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) for the development of an experimental small modular reactor (SMR) plant. The CFPP – a subsidiary of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) – will work with private partner NuScale Power, LLC to construct this plant at the Idaho National Laboratory, beginning in 2025. The CFPP hopes to see its first module come online in 2029.
At Thursday’s presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to transition the U.S. economy “away from the oil industry.” This goal cannot be achieved without the electrification of road transport, which accounted for almost 70% of America’s oil consumption in 2019. Market forces and green government policies are accelerating this shift in the United States and around the world.
While renewables are now the fastest growing energy industry, hydrogen is following closely behind in a massive gale. The 21st century will likely witness the rise of a mega-billion hydrogen fuel industry. Countries are taking first steps – and it’s breathtaking.
The U.S. oil sector witnessed a historic day yesterday, as ExxonMobil fell behind its breakaway sister Chevron in market capitalization with $141.6 billion versus $142 billion at NYSE closing, making it America’s most valuable oil company. This is the first time since the breakup of Rockefeller's Standard Oil in 1911 that Chevron surpassed Exxon in market cap. The reshuffling comes at an unprecedented time for the global oil market, which has been battered by economic lockdowns and an oil price war in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But the real story here is not so much one of Chevron’s rise, but rather Exxon’s decline.
Libya could soon return to the world oil market in a big way, if the agreement between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) in the East of the country is maintained.
Walmart, which generated $524 billion in revenue last year and employs some 2.2 million associates around the world – recently made headlines with an ambitious pledge to reach zero emissions by 2040. The multinational company also declared a commitment to restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030. Along with fellow heavyweights Apple, Amazon, Target, and Google, Walmart is building its renewable energy portfolio for corporate social responsibility and economic reasons.
This week Airbus, the biggest name in aerospace after Boeing, revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035. Rather than traditional jet fuel (kerosene — an oil distillate) all three ‘ZEROe’ designs rely on hydrogen (H2) as their primary fuel source alongside batteries to power hybrid engines.
In late August, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)'s FATIH drilling ship discovered a 320 billion cubic meters (bcm) i.e. 11 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea, within the western part of Turkey's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The reserve — identified to be within the Tuna-1 exploration zone — was discovered some 4,525 meters below the sea bottom, at near 2 km depth. News of the discovery has been welcomed in Turkey as a game-changer with regards to the country's expensive natural gas import bill.
Turkey is a primary destination for US liquefied natural gas (LNG), but a change may be over the horizon. In late August, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)’s drilling ship FATIH discovered a 320 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea, within the western part of Turkey’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The west coast of the United States is ablaze. Nearly 100 wildfires burning from San Diego to Seattle have devastated communities, killed at least 14 people, incited rolling blackouts, and caused billions of dollars in damages. California has seen a record-setting 2.5 million acres burned thus far in 2020, with the cooler and damper Pacific Northwest approaching 1 million acres burned in just three days – double the amount the region loses in an average year. Oregon is in the process of an unprecedented evacuation to move 500,000 residents (10% of the state population) out of high-risk areas. Washington State has lost 1000 square miles to fires. Incredibly, six of California’s 20 worst wildfires happened in 2020, and there are still three months to go in the year.
Solar module prices in the US and around the world are plummeting, and this has far-reaching implications for humanity’s transition from the age of hydrocarbons to the age of electrification. I have repeatedly defended on these pages that renewables will win out once they become economically competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear.
Artificial intelligence is about to trigger explosive changes in our lives, work, and leisure, but few understand what the technology can do beyond Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. These are examples of virtual assistant or ‘weak AI’ technology — the most common example of AI application. But in the data-driven energy sector, sophisticated machine learning is paving the way for ‘strong AI’ to improve efficiency, forecasting, trading, and user accessibility.
Tesla and PG&E recently broke ground on a record-setting energy storage system in Moss Landing (Monterey) California that, once complete, will be the largest such installation in the world. The battery park will be able to dispatch up to 730 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy to the electrical grid at a maximum rate of 182.5 MW for up to four hours using 256 of Tesla’s lithium-ion (Li-ion) Megapacks. Tesla and PG&E will have the option to upgrade Moss Landing’s capacity to bring the system up to 1.2-gigawatt-hours which could, according to Tesla, power every home in San Francisco for six hours.